My nephew is autistic.
Ever since he was diagnosed, I've read anything I come across that has to do with the subject. The back blurb of Lisa Genova's novel love anthony caught my attention immediately. She tells the tale of a woman who is grieving the loss of her autistic son, and trying to make sense of his short life.
Not surprisingly, I flipped immediately to the Author page to see whether she was dealing with autism in her own family, but the brief bio on her gave nothing away. I bought the book and began reading instead, and knew I'd made the right choice on page 15, when Genova writes this about her character:
When Anthony turned three and they were told with certainty what they were dealing with, she believed she'd find somebody somewhere who could help them, an expert who could transform their lives.
She scoured every self-help book, then every medical journal, every memoir, every blog, every online parent support network. She read Jenny McCarthy and the Bible. She read and hoped and prayed and believed in anything claiming help, rescue, reversal, salvation. Somebody somewhere must know something. Somebody must have the key that would unlock her son.
When Wyatt was diagnosed, I, too, read Jenny McCarthy's book, and blogs, and memoirs, trying to see if there was something we could do to pull Wyatt through "the window" as Jenny described it. We inundated my brother and his ex-wife with information and they processed their own information, and we all moved toward acceptance at different speeds.
I'm not Wyatt's parent. I'm his aunt. And as such, I know I can't cure him. I can't experiment with the multitude of approaches that seem almost limitless in their scope. It's not up to me - or any of us, really, to try to "save" Wyatt. This book helped me see that. My brother and his ex-wife already seem to know that. This is Wyatt. He is autistic, and that's okay.
But there's still that niggling to figure out how to connect with Wyatt in some way. The boy in Genova's book is so much like Wyatt that I was both excited and nearly compelled to write to the author and tell her how much her book validated everything we've experienced with Wyatt. He is so like the boy in the book that I was astounded. And I came away from the reading with one little take-away that I feel like I just have to try.
The boy in the book likes musical birthday cards. I know Wyatt isn't Anthony, but I'm going to go buy a card anyway, because what if Wyatt likes it, too? I'm not sure I can ever stop trying to reach him.